Environmental crisis and role of an Artist
We are witnessing drastic environmental changes which are more or less affecting everyone around the globe. The human made environmental disaster is beginning to engulf us within its grasp as a reaction for our own misdoings. We are encircled by inevitable calamity that if we do not act now we will be responsible for creating hell on earth for our generations to come. All around the world climate activists, artists and people from other fields are raising their voices to alarm their leaders and people in general to step up and prevent our planet from turning into a curse for our future generations. We as people of Kashmir are currently witnessing a strange dry spell and we in our hearts know the reason but still, we will not act. There are many reasons that prevents us from taking any action, and one reason is we being made vulnerable to any kind of resistance. We are afraid of getting into any trouble, we are scared even to take any step that’s meant for positive change. Second and most critical reason is our ignorance of the facts that we do not really appreciate what God has bestowed us with. We are ourselves ruining our assets as well as letting people ruin them too. The first reason for our inaction can be resolved by addressing second reason, and that’s by letting people realize the cause of drastic climate change and how are we solemnly responsible and how we can fix it or try to recover it.
Last year it became an international news when climate activists glued themselves to famous paintings of Van Gogh, Manet, and others in prestigious museums on various occasions. Their actions invited large debates and provided an unprecedented impression in raising environmental awareness. Although their all demands are impossible to tackle for at least a decade but the contribution in creating awareness and calling people to act in their respective influence will certainly make a change. Here in Kashmir we don’t have Van Goghs or Manets or even Museums of such importance that we can use to create such an immense impact. Art here is a field known to few and even authorities do not recognize its importance and influence in addressing social or environmental issues. It’s a fact that Visual representation of of any purpose has far more influence then any other form of communication. And if authorities are concerned about the unprecedented climate disruptions they can certainly use art as a medium of awareness. As mentioned earlier we don’t have any museums and galleries and not even artist’s who has any influence to reach to common people, but we can use art and artists in public art events and community art projects to create awareness related to our role in preserving environment.
Our beautiful rivers and streams of fresh water have turned into sewage’s and it’s a result of our ignorance. the villages that were surrounded by fresh water streams are now dependent on water tankers that provide water for its people once a day. We were blessed with gifts of nature but we are carelessly destroying them. Gulmarg an international tourist destination especially for winter sports has turned into a garbage bowl, and unchecked automobile burden has hit it hard this year. We have misused and let people from around the world misuse our prestigious bounties bestowed over us by nature. We have proved to be shortsighted and for a gain of day we destroyed our years, and generations. There is no hope to recover from self inflicted damage to our environment accept by conducting awareness programs on broader level. Using creative approach to reach to every single person and creating a wave of change that will benefit us as well as secure a smooth future for our generations.
In the time of social media and internet any concrete step taken here can influence people all over the world and we can become the centre for positive change. We must realize that our negligence can cost us dearly, artists of the valley should come together to address issues related to climate change, water pollution and other disastrous environmental events unfolding in front of our eyes. A collaboration of government agencies and artists can make a huge impact in addressing such clinical issues on ground level. Public art projects involving people especially youngsters is need of the hour and we have seen artists creatively utilizing trash to create artworks with the involvement of people of a community. Nothing is going to help unless we start thinking seriously and create a draft and act now.
Art possesses the capacity to illustrate potential futures, serving as a compelling vision of what awaits us based on our actions or inactions. Artists have the power to influence and turnover the currents of ideologies, offering us a lucid glimpse into the trajectory of our future. When deployed with intelligence, art can create revolutions that could safeguard us from the impending environmental disasters. Our current actions will inevitably echo into the future, and the responsibility lies with us to determine how we respond to the challenges that surround us.
In this critical juncture, we face a choice between the legacies left by our ancestors – wonderful monuments, pyramids, temples adorned with mesmerizing carvings – and the legacy we, in turn, will leave behind. It is a choice between timeless beauty and the debris of our senseless priorities – a landscape scarred by trash, polluted valleys, plastic waste, and rivers and streams turned into sewage’s. The resolution we take now will shape not only our present but also the legacy we leave for generations yet to come.
Expression of Palestinian Resistance
Sliman Mansour, born in 1947, stands tall as one of the most distinguished and renowned artists in Palestine, leaving an everlasting impression on the canvas of Palestinian artistic expression. He is one of the most distinguished and renowned artists in Palestine. His style embodies steadfastness in the face of a relentless military occupation. His work — which has come to symbolize the Palestinian national identity — has inspired generations of Palestinians and international artists and activists alike.
Growing up amidst the verdant hills and fields of Birzeit, and later in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Mansour’s early years were steeped in the cultural richness of Palestine. These experiences deeply influenced his art, highlighting a profound sense of loss, especially after the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967. His initial encounters with symbols and images laid the foundation for preserving and showcasing Palestinian identity.
Mansour’s art is a testimony to the resilience and connection of Palestinians with their land. Through symbols drawn from Palestinian life, culture, history, and tradition, Mansour portrays the steadfastness of Palestinians in the face of occupation. His artworks become a powerful form of resistance, capturing the essence of the Palestinian struggle.
Mansour uses various themes in his art to convey the multifaceted layers of the Palestinian narrative. The orange trees symbolize the land lost in the Nakba of 1948, while olive trees represent territories occupied in 1967. Images of women adorned in traditional dresses embody the Palestinian revolution, and the landscape with stone terraces signifies the indelible mark of Palestinian farmers on the land. Jerusalem’s iconic landmarks, including the Dome of the Rock, become powerful symbols representing the Palestinian homeland and the collective dream of return.
Its also believed that Sliman Mansour is the reason that watermelon became the symbol of Palestinian resistance. In an article published in The National its stated that when an exhibition in 1980 where works of Sliman Mansour, along with Nabil Anani and Issam Badr, were exhibited 79 Gallery was shut down by the Israeli army as the artworks were deemed political and bore the Palestinian flag and its colours. Confronting the officer, Badr asked, “What if I just want to paint a watermelon?”, to which he replied, “It would be confiscated”.
It was further mentioned in the article that, the exhibition in 79 Gallery was open for only three hours before soldiers cleared out the space and locked it up. Two weeks later, Israeli officers summoned the three artists, warning them to stop producing political paintings, and perhaps paint flowers instead.
“They told us that painting the Palestinian flag was forbidden, but also the colours were forbidden. So Issam said, ‘What if I were to make a flower of red, green, black and white?’, to which the officer replied angrily, ‘It will be confiscated. Even if you paint a watermelon, it will be confiscated.’ So the watermelon was mentioned, but by the Israeli officer,” Mansour explains.
Sliman Mansour’s artwork has been showcased at prestigious national and international exhibitions, underscoring the global significance of Palestinian art. He has received accolades such as the Palestine Prize for the Visual Arts, the Grand Nile Prize at the Seventh Cairo Biennial, and the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture in 2019.